Monday, October 28, 2013

Kidlit Blog Tour

The lovely Amy Sonnichsen tagged me in this blog tour and I'm so grateful because I've been at such a loss for blog topics these days! (Anyone else?)

What are you working on right now?
The Oyster Book is a working title. I'm in the very early stages of writing it. 

How does it differ from other works in its genre?
Hmm.  At this point, I'm just trying to understand my main character's story. I'm learning that she sees the world differently than most. She works on an oyster farm. She works mostly with her hands and her heart. And she has very unique abilities. I would like there to be a dream-like quality to the book, a question of what is real and what isn't. 

Why do you write what you do?
What a question. While I'm always trying to understand who I am as a writer and what I'm doing (really, what am I doing?), I write what I write because I believe that the real world and the ordinary lives we live are interesting and beautiful. I believe the smallest moment or the shortest exchange of dialogue holds infinite truths and possibilities, not just in a sentence or a story, but in our lives. 

How does your writing process work?

I've written two novels and rewritten another. Each time it's different. What stays consistent, what I am reluctantly learning to accept, is that I'm a slow writer. I have to do a lot of dreaming before I can even begin. I do a lot of wandering and exploring through a first draft to understand. Then I do a ton of rearranging, expanding, rewriting, researching, and tossing out words through multiple drafts. I send to trusted readers only when I think I've done all I can. Then I consider their words and revise again. 

Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?
I once read this odd little book (the title escapes me) by a real-life musician explaining all he learned from a mythical teacher. There was a small but meaningful section on 'intention'. The author felt that the intention of every note he played on his guitar could be felt by an audience. So if his intention at a particular gig was to get through it, make connections, or earn a paycheck for the night, the audience would feel that. Same if his intention that night was to experiment or be playful or to play a song he loved. 

I always think back to that complex but beautiful idea. So, at the risk of sounding as hippy dippy as possible, whether we write playfully or with conviction, whether we're working with what we love or fear, we should write each word or play each note with the best and truest of intentions, so that it can be felt. 

I hope Meredith Moore and Laurel Garver will continue the grand tradition of the Kidlit Blog Tour because I'm curious what they are working on!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Watching the Sound

I had the most beautiful birthday weekend -- pumpkin and apple picking with friends, wandering the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, eating delicious food.  There was still so much in bloom, even in these late October days, and I saw these purple flowers poking up from the dried leaves...does anyone know what they are?

Yesterday, I saw Fiona Apple and Blake Mills at the Beacon Theater, a concert I'd been looking forward to for months. Fiona Apple is one of my favorite musicians. I hear something different each time I listen to one of her songs. Sometimes, I'll admit, her musical expressions confound me and that's why I listen so deeply and intently. Music comes out of her body in a way that is wrenching and uncomfortable and I long to understand.

As I watched her yesterday, I quickly learned that her music is an experience that you can watch. I saw that rhythm and sound is corporal to her, that it comes when she is kneeling, bunched up on the ground or against her shoulder blades as she drums the wooden sticks there or as she bends in a perfect arch over the piano seat.

It surprised me, this way of visualizing sound, the deliberate articulation of chalk against a chalkboard or flesh and bone against wood that became percussion. Even her voice rose up from some wrestling, snatching force from her gut. It was all very beautiful and strange. A new way of seeing music I'd only heard before.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Look Ahead - Fateful Encounters in the Nail Art World

I'm sorry I've been so absent from the blog. It's October. And October has always been my favorite month. I'm living the days, exploring where I can (this pregnancy has left me a little less mobile than I have been in past years) and writing what I can of a new novel that is finally beginning to take shape, at least in the contours of my mind, if not on the page. Which, for me, is the only way I can begin. I'm rearranging our apartment for the little one. I'm working at the toy factory in a maze of scripts and approvals and recording sessions and children's songs. I had pizza three times this week.

Yesterday, I attended Comic Con for the first time. I won the tickets through work and did not quite know what to expect. I know so little about pop culture, television, cartoons, gaming, comics, graphics, characters, sci-fi, this overwhelming event was nearly all but lost on me. 

What I loved best were all the costumes. But I left my phone at the office and my real camera at home and, so, I captured none of it. Simply walked the aisles.  And it would turn out that there was a funny thing about leaving the phone behind...

While aimlessly wandering, my friend, Kira, toy designer and nail art enthusiast (but she is also a talented nail artist herself) and I discovered a sign and a booth of artists, and we got our nails done by some of the most talented nail artists in New York!  Above are my nails. Purple (of course) with a little cyclops and a raccoon named Rigby.

The artist is Lexi Martone. She was so incredibly sweet and wow-ed me with her talent. Check out some of her amazing designs here. What she did above was amazing but nothing compared to what she can do! 

Later, Kira would tell me of a fortune she received while playing a game and how strangely it came true for us:

A fateful encounter may just await you on your path today. Don't look down at your phone -- look ahead!

So, forget the phone, leave the screen, look ahead friends. You just might find yourself getting your nails did by the nail-art world's finest. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thoughts on Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I'm not sure how this book found me. I don't remember where I heard of it or why I placed it on hold at the library long before it came out. But, the other day, an email alert said it had come in and I checked it out and there it was in my hands. 

It seems appropriate. Since, this is a book about unexpected connections. About sitting in the back seat of a taxi, staring at the mole on someone's neck and suggesting the driver see a doctor, all of which leads to removing a cancerous growth that leads to wondering what other lives could be lived. And living them.

It's about transferring seeds from a wet paper towel to a plastic cup to a pot of soil to the earth. It's about one young girl whose life is suddenly swept into sudden motion, at a time when her interpretation of the world wants to go silent, still, by the death of her parents.

I love books that transcend labels and age grades and this book does. It is skillfully narrated by a 12 year old genius, then interrupted by a sometimes omniscient narrator telling the stories of a taxi driver, a lazy school counselor, a Vietnamese owner of a nail salon, her determined daughter and her underachiever son.

I like that it trusts young readers to understand. And I like that it allows 'older' readers to remember that feeling, you know, this one (I wish that I were old enough to just go live in the Amazon and study plants there, because it's possible that one of them holds the key to the cure for cancer. But the obstacles are insurmountable. I don't even have a passport.)

I read this odd little book of big and beautiful ideas in one sitting. I loved the big-hearted Willow Chance, who thinks in precise chain links, who knows that planting a seed is, by definition, the beginning of something:

This is amazing.

If plants made sounds, it would all be different. But they communicate with color and shape and size and texture.

They don't meow or bark or tweet.

We think they don't have eyes, but they see the angle of the sun and the rise of the moon. They don't just feel the wind; they change directions because of it. 

Before you think I'm crazy (which is always a possibility), look outside.

Right now.

I'm hoping your view isn't of a parking lot or the side of a building.

I'm imagining you see a tall tree with delicate leaves. You catch sight of swaying grass in a wide field. Weeds pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk are in the distance somewhere. We are surrounded.

I'm asking you to pay attention in a new way and view it all as being Alive.

With a capital A.